In one of his last public appearances on Sept. 30, former Secretary of State Colin Powell grew emotional when talking about why he decided to help start the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at the City College of New York, his alma mater.
In a virtual event by the school, Powell described why he felt motivated to be more involved in the school after meeting with City College of New York students. The video was posted Sept. 30.
“I looked at them, and they were me, and they came from an immigrant background like me, and they came from some borough in the Bronx, and they were smiling, and they were happy,” Powell said.
The Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership is a nonpartisan research center that is a part of the City College of New York. The school is a “home to the social science departments” at the college as well as “core leadership development and public service programs,” according to their website.
Powell attended City College of New York as an undergraduate and graduated in 1958. The school was established in 2013, according to their website.
Originally, a donor had created a Colin Powell Institute to be a part of the college, and Powell was invited to talk to some of the students at the college in connection with the institute. But after meeting the students, he felt compelled to do more, he said, which gave him the motivation to start the school.
“I went up to see what this was, and the Colin Powell institute, and it’s a think tank, okay I’m not crazy about think tanks but this guy is paying for it, and kids are getting it,” he said.
Powell asked the students to tell him about themselves.
“I sat down at the head of the President’s table, in his conference room, and I said to the kids tell me who you are and where you all came from,” he said. “I said each of them tell me where you’re from, where your parents are from and what’s your future. Each one of them, there were twelve I think, each one of them did that…” Powell said, and grew emotional when discussing what they said to him about their future plans.
“Every one … I was just as emotional then as I am now. And I tried, I was a better guy at handling it then than I am now, but I said my God, this is me, that’s when I decided I had to do more than just show up every now and again,” he said.
This is when Powell worked with the then-President of the college to continue with the Institute and eventually, a year or two later, to start the Colin Powell school, he said.
“It wasn’t an American dream, it was an American journey, they were all on an American journey, and I think of that crowd of however many they were, I expect all of them graduated,” he added.
Watch the conversation: